How To Get Paint Scuffs Off Of Your Car

Clean that paint there until it ain’t there.

Black bumper scratched with white paint.
Depositphotos

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For some unknown reason, automotive manufacturers have yet to source vibranium for an impenetrable vehicle-protecting shield. These companies say they’re all about prioritizing safety, yet the obvious answer has only been applied to Shield’s helicarriers. Weak!

Until Wakanda gives up the secrets behind its tech, we’re stuck with regular cars that are vulnerable to dents, dings, scratches, and paint transfer. Paint transfer is when the paint from another vehicle, a wall, or other roadside obstacle jumps off its original surface and clings to your car during harsh contact. Pro tip: Yellow paint doesn’t look too great on your pearly white bumper. 

In some cases, a collision will require a new part or professional bodywork, but many times, the everyday DIYer can erase paint transfer fairly easily. The Drive’s crack info team has covered up all sorts of encounters with door dings, errant parking lot racers, and giant yellow safety poles, and we’d like to share our learnings with you! Let’s examine what you need and how to handle the job.

The Basics of Removing Paint Transfer From Your Car

Estimated Time Needed: 20 minutes-1 hour

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Body

Safety

Working on your car can be dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you leave the garage in the same condition in which you entered.

Everything You’ll Need To Get Paint Off Your Car

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.

Tool List

Parts List

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.

Dark paint transfer soils an off-white car.
Depositphotos

Paint transfer can easily be fixed. Dents cannot be.

Here’s How To Get Paint Off Car

Let’s do this! 

Removing the Paint

  1. Park the car in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
  2. Add a small amount of remover or compound to your microfiber towel.
  3. If using products specially formulated for this purpose, lightly rub the affected area in small circles, slowly increasing pressure as the remover is spread over the paint. If you’re using adhesive remover, use small amounts, be quick and deliberate, use light brush strokes with the towel, and don’t let it sit. 
  4. With a dry part of the microfiber towel or a different towel, wipe away excess remover and buff the area. 
  5. If paint remains, repeat steps 3 and 4 until the area is clear.

Assessing the Damage

Once the paint is off, use your senses of touch and sight to inspect just how bad the scrape is (again, if we had superhero powers, we would just heal the car with the touch of a finger). If it cuts through the clear coat and into your own car’s paint, you might need to use touch-up paint on the area. 

If you see the scratch goes down to the metal, you will need to treat the area to prevent rust. Additional polishing compound application and buffing can also help smooth out any roughness left after the paint.

For more information on how to handle scratches, visit The Drive’s guide, How To Remove Scratches From a Car.

Get Help With Paint Transfer Removal From a Mechanic On JustAnswer

Although The Drive’s detailed how-to guides are easy to follow, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or a messy oil leak can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswer, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs. 

So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you. 

Pro Tips to Removing Paint Transfer

We’ve been involved in dozens of mishaps that were absolutely never our fault and consequently had to deal with some ugly scratches. Learn from us. 

  • Don’t overdo it. Brief and light wipes should be able to remove the paint. If you saturate the towel with the paint remover, soak the paint, or rub the paint too hard, it could damage the clear coat.
  • Most modern cars have multi-stage paint jobs with clear coats, but we don’t know who you are or what your car looks like. So, if you have a single-stage paint job, do not use any sort of adhesive remover, as it could remove some of the paint.
A white car scratched around the wheel well.
Depositphotos

Paint transfer can also come from immobile objects such as parking posts.

FAQs About Getting Paint Off of a Car

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. Can Paint Transfer Be Buffed Out?

A: It’s simpler than that. Use the remover, wipe it off, and you should be good!

Q: Ok, So Does WD-40 Remove Paint Transfer?

A: We recommend using specially formulated scratch remover, polishing compound, or adhesive remover.

Q: Will Goo Gone Remove Paint? 

A: Yes. Goo Gone makes a product specifically designed for automobiles called Goo Gone Automotive Spray Gel that is designed to remove gunk from your car’s surface.

Q: But Can I Use Toothpaste To Remove Paint?

A: Just use the stuff we recommended, it costs like $7. 

Let’s Talk, Comment Below To Talk With The Drive’s Editors!

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How-To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below and let’s talk! You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, here are our profiles.

Jonathon Klein: Twitter (@jonathon.klein), Instagram (@jonathon_klein)

Tony Markovich: Twitter (@T_Marko), Instagram (@t_marko)

Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)